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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Genuine Saving Faith

Unbelief continues to work in most people whom the way of God is proposed in the gospel. Some are under the power of darkness and ignorance, and so they apprehend not. Some are blinded by Satan since he is the god of this world. Their minds are filled with prejudice, and their hearts with the love of present things. Some would mix in their own works, ways, and duties. John Owen discusses this in the article below:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)

The securing of the spiritual comforts of believers in this life is a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God, and their own advantage by the gospel. For God is abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should receive strong consolation, and he has provided ways and means for the communication of it to them; and their participation of it is their principal interest in this world, and is so esteemed by them. But their effectual refreshing enjoyment of these comforts is variously opposed by the power of the remainders of sin, in conjunction with other temptations. Hence, notwithstanding their right and title unto them by the gospel, they are often actually destitute of a gracious sense of them, and, consequently, of that relief which they are suited to afford in all their duties, trials, and afflictions. Now, the root whereon all real comforts do grow, whence they spring and arise, is true and saving faith,–the faith of God’s elect. Wherefore they do ordinarily answer unto, and hold proportion with, the evidences which any have of that faith in themselves; at least, they cannot be maintained without such evidences. Wherefore, that we may be a little useful unto the establishment or recovery of that consolation which God is so abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should enjoy, I shall inquire, what are the principal acts and operations of faith, whereby it will evidence its truth and sincerity in the midst of all temptations and storms that may befall believers in this world?

And I shall insist on such alone as will bear the severest scrutiny by Scripture and experience. And,–The principal genuine acting of saving faith in us, inseparable from it, yea, essential to such acting, consists in the: choosing, embracing, and approbation of God’s way of saving sinners, by the mediation of Jesus Christ, relying thereon, with a renunciation of all other ways and means pretending unto the same end of salvation.

This is that which we are to explain and prove. Saving faith is our ‘believing the record that God has given us of his Son,’ 1 John 5:10, ‘And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son,’ verse 11. This is the testimony which God gives, that great and sacred truth which he himself bears witness unto,–namely, that he has freely prepared eternal life for them that believe, or provided a way of salvation for them. And what God so prepares he is said to give, because of the certainty of its communication. So grace was promised and given to the elect in Christ Jesus before the world began, 2 Tim.1:9; Tit.1:2. And that is so to be communicated unto them, in and by the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, that it is the only way whereby God will give eternal life unto any; which is therefore wholly in him, and by him to be obtained, and from him to be received. Upon our acquiescence in this testimony, on our approbation of this way of saving sinners, or our refusal of it, our eternal safety or ruin does absolutely depend. And it is reasonable that it should be so: for, in our receiving of this testimony of God, we ‘set to our seal that God is true,’ John 3:33; we ascribe unto him the glory of his truth, and therein of all the other holy properties of his nature,–the most eminent duty whereof we are capable in this world; and by a refusal of it, what lies in us, we make him a liar, as in this place, 1 John 5:10, which is virtually to renounce his being. (“Evidences of the faith of God’s Elect”)

Sin And Future Fear

Archibald Alexander

Can sinners enjoy the kingdom of God? How then, can men of depraved habits and who never have sought the Righteous God, enjoy the perfect holiness of heaven? Such men could never endure the participation in of holy exercises there. Death, in and of itself, makes no radical changes in the moral character. Therefore, if you die unrepentant, you will never reach that high and holy place. Archibald Alexander provides us with his views on this topic:

“Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth, but are obeying unrighteousness; affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. There is no favoritism with God. All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” (Romans 2:3-12)

The one thing needful is, to be fully persuaded that nothing is needful. If men are only informed that there will be no future reckoning, no condemnation of the wicked, no future punishment, they need know nothing else; and whether they believe it or not, all are in the safe way to heaven. . . .

This doctrine encourages men to continue in sin by removing all fear of future judgment and punishment. In this respect its tendency is as bad as atheism itself, for the most impious denial of a divine Being cannot promise more to its foolish votaries than exemption from judgment and future punishment. This species of Universalism is fraught with the very worst poison of atheism. It tells the sinner, that, let him act as wickedly as he will, or as he can, there is no fear of future misery. Indeed, it is in some respects worse than atheism, for it not only promises exemption from punishment, but the reward of eternal happiness to the impenitent sinner! It says to the atrocious murderer and cruel assassin, You need fear no evil hereafter; though you should die in the commission of the foulest deeds, heaven, with all its glory and happiness, is yours. Is not this shocking to every honest mind? And what must the effect be on profane, cruel, and abandoned profligates?

How pernicious its influence in the hour of temptation! Suppose an inexperienced youth in a place of trust to have imbibed this doctrine. An opportunity occurs of defrauding his employer of a vast sum of money, with the prospect of escaping detection. Well, what shall hinder him from enriching himself at once? If the belief of a future judgment were now to rise in his mind, he would be ready, like Joseph, to say, How can I do this great evil, and sin against God? But having no apprehension of any judgment to come, and sure of heaven, let him do what he will, he is led into temptation, and is deprived of every consideration which would lead him to resist it. Even the faint hope that there is no future punishment, has a powerful effect in leading corrupt men to commit atrocious crimes, although this hope is contrary to all that they have ever been taught; but who can calculate the influence of a persuasion that there is no future punishment for the greatest crimes, derived from men who pretend to be preachers of the gospel? Doubtless a large portion of the most abominable crimes that ever were perpetrated, owe their existence to a secret belief or hope of the truth of the very doctrine which Universalist preach.

It is a horrible consequence of this doctrine, that it puts it in the power of the sinner to blaspheme and defy Almighty God with impunity! The malignant, ungrateful wretch, instead of praising, may blaspheme the great Jehovah every day of his life, and may die with horrid blasphemies on his lips, and yet he shall be rewarded with everlasting happiness! Indeed, as all the punishment of sin is supposed to be in this life, when a sinner commits some horrible crime in the last moments of his life, as in a late case where a man first shot an innocent person, and then blew out his own brains, where or how will he receive his due punishment? His death is but the pang of a moment, and if there be no retribution for such crimes in the government of God, it cannot be believed that he is a righteous moral Governor. (Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted)

The Universal Need

Christians understand that human nature is in the grip of sin. We learn in the Bible that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” (Romans. 8:7). Man is a sinner who must be born again. We are all plagued with guilt which can only be removed by salvation. Claude Duval Cole explains why:

In the light of eternity salvation is the only need. In comparison all other needs fade into insignificance. All other needs are temporal; salvation is for eternity. All other blessings are for a season; salvation is an everlasting blessing. It is called everlasting life. The opposite of everlasting life is everlasting punishment in the lake of fire, called the second death.

Salvation covers every eternal need. It covers the housing problem, for in the Father’s house are many mansions. It covers the food problem, for Christ is the bread of life of which one may eat and never hunger. It covers the employment problem, for the saved will serve God day and night in His temple. It covers the social problem, for the saved of all the earth will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God–all language and cultural barriers will vanish. It covers the health problem, for in the new heavens and the new earth there will be no more pain, for the former things are passed away. Moreover, God Himself shall dwell with His people, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Salvation is a universal need, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Every normal person has a guilt complex. A New York preacher once announced as his subject, “How to Get Rid of Guilty Feelings.” He told the audience he would pause while all who were free of guilty feelings might leave the building. To his surprise nobody left. He said he would not have been surprised if it had been a small town congregation where everybody would be known to each other, but in New York where all were more or less strangers to one another, he had not expected all of them to acknowledge they were sinners. But that New York congregation were true to their feelings in this matter-every one of them had a guilt complex. This, in itself, is proof of the existence of God. Conscience testifies loudly to the fact that there is a God with whom we have to do.

The story of religion is made up of the efforts men make to get rid of guilty feeling. This is the explanation of what is called “conscience money;” the thief is trying to get rid of his guilty feelings by returning what he had stolen. This is why the Romanist goes to confessional; he is wanting to get something off his conscience. This is the explanation of Communism; the Communist rids himself of a guilty feeling, if and when he can persuade himself to believe there is no God to Whom he must give an account. The very fact that the atheist raves against the idea of God indicates that his own conscience gives him trouble on the question. This accounts for all heathen religions; people are striving to get rid of guilty feelings. It explains the faith of God’s elect; they are trusting Christ for acceptance with God and freedom from condemnation. (Definitions of Doctrine)

Hell Is No Longer Fashionable!

Archibald Alexander

There is no greater mischief done to men, than by spreading among them false opinions which remove beneficial restraints. I am writing here about those restraints which preserve men from indulging in sin, or relying on a false security. Those same false opinions persuade men to neglect that preparation which is necessary for death and judgment. One such false opinion may be more dangerous than all others to the good of men; it is the opinion that there is no Hell or future punishment. Archibald Alexander gives us more information to help our understanding of this matter:

“He, who believes on the Son, has everlasting life; and he, who believes not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

Here there is no room for any doubt on account of the import of particular terms. That the life here spoken of is life in a future state cannot be denied, for it is expressly called everlasting life; and it is expressly asserted that unbelievers shall not partake of this life. Now if they are deprived of life in the future world, they are deprived of happiness; there is no medium between life and death, happiness and misery. Unbelievers must therefore be miserable in the future world. And this seems to be asserted strongly in the last words quoted: “And the wrath of God abides on him.” These words do not merely signify that the unbeliever is under wrath while in this world, but that this is an abiding state. It is the contrast to the possession of eternal life. While the wicked are in this world, they are indeed under a sentence of wrath, but the execution of this wrath is reserved for a future state. The greatest sinners and most obstinate unbelievers live in ease and pleasure here, and do not suffer the wrath under the sentence of which they lie. But it will abide upon them, and the vials of this divine wrath will be poured out upon them to all eternity. . . .

Let us now attend to a few testimonies from the apostle Paul. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 6:23. Here the just rules of interpretation require us to consider death, as it stands in contrast with eternal life, to be eternal death.

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction.” Phil. 3:18, 19. This destruction, which comes at the end of the sinner’s course, cannot be natural death; for all are subject to death—the friends as well as the enemies of the cross. It is certainly a destruction which is peculiar to the wicked, and as it is their end, must be future punishment, or the second death. (“Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted” by Archibald Alexander)

Man’s Dependence Upon God For Salvation

Jonathan Edwards

We are dependent on God for our salvation. God is the author and fountain of it. Our pardon from sin; our deliverance from hell; the blessing of grace and holiness, as well as eternal life and glory – all these are the free gift of God. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) writes on this marvelous subject:

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

Man’s redemption is often spoken of as a work of wonderful power as well as grace. The great power of God appears in bringing a sinner from his low state, from the depths of sin and misery, to such an exalted state of holiness and happiness. “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Eph. 1:19).

We are dependent on God’s power through every step of our redemption. We are dependent on the power of God to convert us, and give faith in Jesus Christ, and the new nature.

It is a work of creation: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). “We are created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10). . . . Yea, it is a more glorious work of power than mere creation, or raising a dead body to life, in that the effect attained is greater and more excellent. That holy and happy being, and spiritual life which is reached in the work of conversion, is a far greater and more glorious effect, than mere being and life. And the state from whence the change is made, of such a death in sin, and total corruption of nature, and depth of misery, is far more remote from the state attained, than mere death or nonentity.

It is by God’s power also that we are preserved in a state of grace. “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (1 Pet. 1: 5). As grace is at first from God, so it is continually from him, and is maintained by him, as much as light in the atmosphere is all day long from the sun, as well as at first dawning, or at sun rising.

Men are dependent on the power of God, for every exercise of grace, and for carrying on the work of grace in the heart, for the subduing of sin and corruption, and increasing holy principles, and enabling to bring forth fruit in good works, and at last bringing grace to its perfection, in making the soul completely amiable in Christ’s glorious likeness, and filling of it with a satisfying joy and blessedness; and for the raising of the body to life, and to such a perfect state, that it shall be suitable for a habitation and organ for a soul so perfected and blessed. These are the most glorious effects of the power of God that are seen in the series of God’s acts with respect to the creatures. (“God Glorified In Man’s Dependence”)

To See The Beauty Of Christ

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards’s descriptive preaching clearly reveals a religion of the heart. Edwards believed it was his duty to raise the affections of his hearers as high as he could, provided that they were affected with nothing but the truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with. In Edward’s writing about the beauty of Christ, this style is very evident:

How excellent is that inner goodness and true religion that comes from [the] sight of the beauty of Christ! Here you have the most wonderful experiences of saints and angels in heaven. Here you have the best experience of Jesus Christ Himself. Even though we are mere creatures, it is a sort of participation in God’s own beauty. “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” (2 Pet 1:4) “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10) Because of the power of this divine working, there is a mutual indwelling of God and His people. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

This special relationship has to make the person involved as happy and as blessed as any creature in existence. This is a special gift of God, which he gives only to his special favorites. Gold, silver, diamonds, and earthly kingdoms are given by God to people who the Bible calls dogs and pigs. But this great gift of beholding Christ’s beauty, is the special blessing of God to His dearest children. Flesh and blood cannot give this gift: only God can bestow it. This was the special gift which Christ died to obtain for his elect. It is the highest token of his everlasting love, the best fruit of his labors, and the most precious purchase of his blood.

By this gift, more than anything else, the saints shine as lights in the world. This gift, more than anything else, is their comfort. It is impossible that the soul who possesses this gift should ever perish. This is the gift of eternal life. It is eternal life begun: those who have it can never die. It is the dawning of the light of glory. It comes from heaven, it has a heavenly quality, and it will take its bearer to heaven. Those who have this gift may wander in the wilderness or be tossed by waves on the ocean, but they will arrive in heaven at last. There the heavenly spark will be made perfect and increased. In heaven the souls of the saints will be transformed into a bright and pure flame, and they will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Amen.

The Road To God’s Kingdom

John Angell James

From the writings of John Angell James:

Earth is to its inhabitants, neither a paradise nor a desert. If it has not all the beautiful scenes and productions of a paradise—so neither has it all the dreariness and desolation of a desert. This world is called “a valley of tears,” but it is not less true that it is sometimes a valley without the tears. It often wears a smiling aspect, and reflects the light of God’s graciousness and bounty.

We know very well that man’s chief portion lies in the blessings of salvation, and the hope of eternal glory. These are so vast as almost to reduce all else to nothing. Full pardons of sin, and the hope of an eternity of pure and perfect felicity, are such amazing expectations, as might seem to render us absolutely indifferent alike to . . . .

• poverty and riches;

• pain and ease;

• obscurity and renown.

How little would it signify to him who was going to take possession of a kingdom and a throne, whether he traveled through a desert or a garden; or whether he dined meagerly or sumptuously; or whether he had all best accommodations and conveniences along the way. His thoughts would be so engrossed with the permanent scenes of greatness, grandeur, power, and wealth before him—as to be almost insensible to the privations or comforts along the way. So it is, with a Christian traveling to glory, honor, immortality and eternal life!

It is incumbent upon Christians to let their spirit and conduct be consistent with the hope of eternal glory, in that eminent spirituality and heavenliness of mind, which are manifested in a supreme, constant, and practical regard to divine and eternal things.

Roger Sherman’s Declaration Of Faith

Roger Sherman

Quoting Roger Sherman – Signer of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution:

“I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance equal in power and glory. That the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are a revelation from God, and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. That God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, so as thereby he is not the author or approver of sin. That he creates all things, and preserves and governs all creatures and all their actions, in a manner perfectly consistent with the freedom of will in moral agents, and the usefulness of means. That he made man at first perfectly holy, that the first man sinned, and as he was the public head of his posterity, they all became sinners in consequence of his first transgression, are wholly indisposed to that which is good and inclined to evil, and on account of sin are liable to all the miseries of this life, to death, and to the pains of hell forever.

I believe that God having elected some of mankind to eternal life, did send his own Son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind, so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the gospel offer: also by his special grace and spirit, to regenerate, sanctify and enable to persevere in holiness, all who shall be saved; and to procure in consequence of their repentance and faith in himself their justification by virtue of his atonement as the only meritorious cause.

I believe a visible church to be a congregation of those who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, joined by the bond of the covenant.

I believe that the souls of believers are at their death made perfectly holy, and immediately taken to glory: that at the end of this world there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a final judgment of all mankind, when the righteous shall be publicly acquitted by Christ the Judge and admitted to everlasting life and glory, and the wicked be sentenced to everlasting punishment.” (The Life of Roger Sherman, pp. 272-273)

The Importance Of Communing With God

Richard Baxter, Puritan Theologian

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter explains the need for prayer in the Christian life:

Our whole work must be carried on under a deep sense of our own insufficiency, and of our entire dependence on Christ. We must go for light, and life, and strength to him who sends us on the work. And when we feel our own faith weak, and our hearts dull, and unsuitable to so great a work as we have to do, we must have recourse to him, and say, ‘Lord, wilt thou send me with such an unbelieving heart to persuade others to believe? Must I daily plead with sinners about everlasting life and everlasting death, and have no more belief or feeling of these weighty things myself? O, send me not naked and unprovided to the work; but, as thou commands too do it, furnish me with a spirit suitable thereto.’ Prayer must carry on our work as well as preaching: he preaches not heartily to his people that prayeth not earnestly for them. If we prevail not with God to give them faith and repentance, we shall never prevail with them to believe and repent. When our own hearts are so far out of order, and theirs so far out of order, if we prevail not with God to mend and help them, we are like to make but unsuccessful work. (The Reformed Pastor)

Truth And Pastors

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1Timothy 6:11-14)

There are many who have differing opinions over a pastor’s job description. We should all agree, however, that his primary task is to teach us the truth of the Word of God. John MacArthur discusses this responsibility:

What do you look for in a pastor? Not how interesting, not how clever, not how short his sermons are, not how popular he is, not how cute he is, not how slick he is. How well does he guard the truth? How faithful to the truth is he? How skilled in an understanding of the truth? How…strong in the proclamation of that truth? You may be a pastor, but if you do not guard the truth, you’re not a man of God. This is a lifelong responsibility.

A young preacher came to Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse, great Philadelphia theologian and preacher, and said, “Dr. Barnhouse…he said…I’d give the world if I knew the Bible like you do.” He said, “Good, because that’s exactly what it’ll cost you.”

This is all we live for, is to know the Word and to make it known. The man of God, called by God, given one responsibility, to proclaim His truth. To do it, he must flee the things that corrupt. He must follow after…the issues that lead to holiness. He must fight his whole life long, and he must be faithful to the truth to the end of the age.

The typical church service, somebody said, is like a merry-go-round. Crowded with people sitting down in a seat they had to pay for, controlled by a man who has nothing to say. There’s a lot of music, lots of motion up and down, some good feelings, but, unfortunately, you get off exactly where you got on. How sad. (“Identifying a Man of God”)

Christianity Is Not A Light Subject

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1 Timothy 6:11-14)

There are many “so-called” Christian Churches in our day where we find a very lax attitude when it comes to teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Doctrines, confessions, and creeds are no longer used or taught. I fear that church social activities have replaced Christ as the center ohurch. Who should be held responsible for ignoring the deep and serious teachings of the Scriptures? What happens when we enter the church seeking only our weekly snack of Christianity-lite? John MacArthur offers his insight into this problem:

[T]he man of God is known by what he flees from, what he follows after, and, thirdly, what he fights for. Verse 12, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” The man of God is a fighter. He is a boxer, a wrestler, a soldier, a battler, a protagonist. He is engaged in relentless war. 2 Timothy 2, the Apostle Paul says that, “He suffers hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, disentangled in the affairs of everyday life. He pleases the One who enlisted him to be a soldier.” We battle the kingdom of darkness which yields its ground very reluctantly. We face many adversaries, and, as we have been saying in the last few weeks, we know that the enemy of our souls hates what we do. . . .

I met with the pastor of the largest seeker friendly church, and he said to me, “You know what your problem is MacArthur? You need to lighten up.” And I smiled. I said, “It’s really hard to do in the middle of war.” Fight the good fight. It is a good fight, isn’t it? It’s a noble fight. To fight against the kingdom of darkness with the truth. The only weapon we have is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, right?

And I think that’s one of the serious problems today, is people aren’t taking the battle as seriously as they have to take it. And He helps us with that. “Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you are called.” What does that phrase mean? He simply means this: Get a grip on the fact that you’re dealing with eternal issues. How can you treat the ministry shallow…in shallow terms? How can you treat it trivially? This is war, and eternity is at stake. “You knew that…He says in verse 12…when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. You knew that when you confessed Christ, when we were all there gathered.” He’s probably referring to His ordination when the elders laid hands on Him and set Him apart from the ministry. “You confessed at that time that this was a mater of eternal issues. You’re not just slapping people around with some puffy gloves here. This is a life and death matter. Get a grip on it.”

Lighten up! What kind of a statement is that? A man of God is called to eternal issues. Having confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, he publicly commits himself to a battle over eternal issues. As long as he lives, he fights the good fight, the noble fight for the souls of men against the kingdom of darkness and against the world, the flesh, and the devil. That’s why he has to be sober-minded. That’s why he has to be cut off from this world, ’cause the battle is so critical. A man of God is marked by what he flees from, follows after, and fights for.

You Will Have Many Trials

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

Have you ever known the ungodly in this world to ever encourage a true Christian? This present world will mock, despise, laugh, frighten, and discourage you. People will spread false reports about you. The devil’s disciples will throw traps in your way. Many will persecute you. Bishop J. C. Ryle writes of the trials Christians face:

Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? then be sure you will have many a trial; where indeed would be the value of a Savior, if there were not enemies to be saved from? Yes! you will have many a trial! Satan has great wrath against all who have escaped his snares, and he will bring every weapon to bear against your peace; he will start many a doubt within your mind, he will stir up many a vile and blasphemous imagination within the chambers of your heart, many a horrid thought you once would have believed impossible—but still remember those words, “never perish.” Yes! you will have many a trial. . . .

And then there is the flesh, sleepy and drowsy and fond of excuses, always trying to make you believe you have more difficulties than anybody else, deceitful, treacherous, needing constant watchfulness—but still the world and the flesh can never turn you back, except you are a graceless traitor. Remember those blessed words “never perish.” Christian, you may be perplexed—but you never need despair; you may be persecuted but you are not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed; you may have tribulation—but you shall not have condemnation; you shall be saved from your enemies and from the hand of all who hate you. Fear none of these things which you shall suffer; be faithful unto death, and your Good Shepherd shall give you a crown of life.

Verily He is gone before to prepare a place for those whom He knows, and where He is in glory there they shall be also. “What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things? Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing—will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39) (“The Privileges of the True Christian”)

The Voice Of The Shepherd

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

From the writings of J. C. Ryle:

Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Then beware of ever trusting to yourselves; nothing offends the Good Shepherd more than to see the members of His flock, forgetting that in Him alone is all their safety, and glorying in their own attainments and performances. Think not of your weak endeavors; think not to say, “I do very little, and therefore have very little hope—by-and-by I trust I shall do much, and then I shall have much hope”; your best performances and attempts towards heaven are in themselves but broken reeds, and can bear no weight; they are precious as evidences of spiritual life—but they cannot justify. Think only of your Savior Jesus Christ, trust Him entirely, love Him affectionately, look to Him continually. As long as you lean on Him you are strong and none can touch you. Without Him and in your own might, you are weak and unstable as water.

Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Then beware of wandering from the pasture He has provided. The devil and the old Adam would often persuade you there is no need for this diligence in using means of grace: “Surely,” they will say, “you are not such a babe but you can leave these fields for a short season; surely you need not keep so closely in your Shepherd’s sight.” Christian, take heed and beware of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely. Diligent private prayer, diligent Scripture searching, diligent gospel hearing—these are the pastures in which Jesus feeds His flock, and if you turn aside, if you become slack in using them, be sure your soul will soon starve for lack of its accustomed nourishment, and you will return to the fold weak and lame and lean and diseased.

Assurance Against The Enemy

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

The verses above give those who are among Christ’s sheep a promise that they will never be lost to Him. The soul of the Christian will be preserved against the temptations of the enemy. According to Bishop J. C. Ryle:

There is assurance upon assurance, that none may have an excuse for doubting. There is always something plucking at Christ’s sheep: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, the devil, and the world are ever striving hard to destroy them—but they shall not succeed! Do you think the devil will give up his kingdom without a mighty struggle? Oh no, he goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; he wars a constant warfare with all who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ—but the word of God is pledged that he shall never prevail. Not all the powers of darkness shall avail to quench one single spark of real gospel faith. . . .

Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Can you feel within yourselves the working of His blessed Spirit, mortifying the works of the flesh, and drawing up your minds to heavenly things? Have you the witness in yourselves that you have gone through a real spiritual change, that you hate the sins which once you loved, and love the things which once you despised? Have you good reason to believe that you have indeed put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man with the lamb-like nature of your blessed Master? Then, oh, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Pray that you may not stand still—but go on from grace to grace and strength to strength; pray that you may bear much spiritual fruit, for thus is your Father glorified, and then will you make your own calling and election sure to yourselves. (“The Privileges of the True Christian”)

Eternal Life Bestowed Freely

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

Jesus Christ does not deal with us who are sinners as we deal with one another.  He gives eternal life freely, without money and without price. We are not worthy or deserving, but His salvation is a free gift, because He loves us and has set His affection upon us. Consider the wonder of this doctrine. Pardon and forgiveness are unconditionally bestowed. J. C. Ryle says of this:

The Lord Jesus says of His sheep, “I give unto them eternal life!” What is the portion which Jesus gives His people? “eternal life”—a perfect, never-ending happiness for that which is the most important part of a man—his immortal soul. They shall not be hurt by the second death, which alone is to be really feared. What greater things could our Lord bestow upon His people? Health and riches and honor and pleasures, houses and lands, and wives and children—what are they? how long do they last?—it is but threescore years and ten, and we must leave them all—and six feet of vile earth is room enough for us. Naked came we into the world, and naked must we return unto the dust, and carry nothing with us. What is the difference between the rich and the poor in death? They both go unto one and the same place; the worm feeds sweetly on them both; it is but a short time, and you would not be able to distinguish between their bones.

But if the poor man sleeps in Jesus, while the rich man dies in his sins, oh, what a mighty gulf then is between them! The rich will take up his abode in that fire which is never quenched; the poor will awake to find he has an everlasting treasure in heaven, even eternal life. Eternal life! Compared to which this world’s concerns, weighty and important as they seem, are like a drop of water. Amazing indeed that men should trouble themselves about the things of earth, and sweat and toil after a little more gold and silver, and spend their strength upon these frail, sickly bodies of ours, to get enjoyment for them, and yet remain careless and dead and frozen about the life of that precious talent the soul!

But what about eternal life? “I,” says the Lord Jesus Christ, “do give it to my people.” Who says this? He says it who bought and paid the full price; He who has in His hands the keys of death and hell; He who opens and no man shuts, He who shuts and no man opens; He says it who is the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, who is not a man that He should lie, who never breaks His promise; He says it who has a right to say it, for He came down to do His Father’s will and die in our stead to obtain redemption for us, and when He declares “I give eternal life,” death and hell must be silent, none can gainsay Him.

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